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20 fun facts about the pesky insects

Mosquitoes are known for irritating itchy bites and infectious diseases.

But there are many interesting facts about the pesky insects, who arrived on Earth long before humans.

Here are 20 things you likely didn’t know.

1. Mosquitoes have been around since the Jurassic period. That makes them about 210 million years old.

2. Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly.” The word reportedly originated in the early 16th century. In Africa, New Zealand and Australia, mosquitoes are often called “mozzies.”

3. There are more than 3,000 species. Only a couple hundred feed on human blood. About 175 of them are found in the United States, with the Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Culex pipiens, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus among the most common. The Anopheles is a malaria carrier, and the other three are known to spread various forms of encephalitis. Zika is primarily spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

4. West Virginia has the fewest species. There are 26. There are about 60 different species of mosquito in Ohio. Texas has the most with 85, and Florida has 80.

5. Only females bite. The female needs blood to help her eggs develop. Both male and female feed mainly on fruit and plant nectar.

6. Mosquitoes don’t have teeth. The females “bite” with a long, pointed mouthpart called a proboscis. They use the serrated proboscis to pierce the skin and locate a capillary, then draw blood through one of two tubes

7. The bumps from bites are caused by saliva. While one tube in the proboscis draws blood, a second pumps in saliva containing a mild painkiller and an anti-coagulant. Most people have minor allergic reactions to the saliva, causing the area around the bite to swell and itch.

8. A mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood.

9. Humans are not the first blood choice. They usually prefer horses, cattle, and birds.

10. Female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. Usually, the eggs are deposited in clusters on the surface of stagnant water, or they are laid in areas that flood regularly. Eggs can hatch in as little as an inch of standing water. Females will lay eggs up to three times before they die.

11. The average mosquito lives less than two months. Males live 10 days or less while females can live up to eight weeks.

12. Mosquitoes can hibernate. At temperatures less than 50 degrees, they shut down. The adult females of some species find holes where they wait for warmer weather, while others lay their eggs in freezing water and die. The eggs keep until the temperatures rise, and they can hatch. Females that hibernate may live up to six months.

13. Animals love mosquitoes: They are a reliable source of food for birds, bats, fish, dragonflies, and frogs.

14. They can’t fly very far or very fast. Most mosquitoes can fly no more than about one to three miles, and often stay within several hundred feet of where they were hatched. The top speed is about 1.5 miles per hour.

15. They generally fly below 25 feet. However, some species have also been found at heights up to 8,000 feet.

16. They are drawn to humans by their breath. Receptors on their antennae detect the carbon dioxide released when we exhale. Anyone who breathes more, including larger people and pregnant women, may be more attractive.

17. Sweat helps mosquitoes choose their victims. Our skin produces more than 340 chemical odors, and some smell wonderful to a mosquito.

18. Body heat can lead to bites. Mosquitoes use heat sensors around their mouthparts to detect the warmth of your body.

19. They are drawn to people drinking beer. And some mosquitoes are attracted to feet.

20. Movement attracts mosquitoes.

The best way to keep mosquitoes away is to remove sources of water.

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